Max Verstappen is no stranger to the odd bit of controversy, and last year one of the most memorably controversial moments came at the US GP. After scything through from 16th on the grid, he overtook Kimi Raikkonen on the last lap at Turn 17, a place where you don’t normally see overtaking.
It looked like a brilliant move, but unfortunately he’d cut the corner a bit in order to make it stick. The FIA slapped him with a five-second post-race penalty, dropping him back behind Raikkonen and creating some awkward scenes in the cooldown room.
There was outrage afterwards because during the race, several other drivers had gained an advantage by going off the track and escaped punishment. That’s not going to happen when we head to Austin this year, though, because the track is getting a whole load of new kerbs to prevent drivers from going off without losing time. On the topic of track limits, Charlie Whiting said:
“There’s no change of approach. But again, as we did between ‘16 and ‘17, if you remember Mexico 2016 we had Lewis cutting across the first corner and that didn’t happen [in 2017] because of the measures that we took there.
“I think everywhere that we go now, we really are getting much closer to eliminating everything. COTA for example, needless to say there will be some low kerbs in the area where Max went off and they’ll be a couple of those bumpy kerbs like we have on the exit of the last corner or the exit of the first corner.”
Whilst kerbs are one solution to prevent track limit issues, Whiting did admit that there was going to be a crackdown on drivers deliberately cutting corners to pass people because the penalty costs less time than being stuck behind another car.
“We had a couple of issues in Abu Dhabi where Nico Hulkenberg went off and it was quite clear he gained an advantage but he wouldn’t give the place back. That was expeditious to stay in front and take a five-second penalty – that was the norm. But that’s another thing we need to address.”
It’s good to hear that track limits are being looked at, because the issue often comes up and frequently highlights the inconsistencies in stewarding. Putting in new kerbs is one way to help, but you know racing drivers – chances are they’ll just find new places to try and get away with it.